The Philippines’ 7,641 islands and its breathtaking beaches are famed far and wide. If you haven’t already been there, then for sure you’ve heard about Siargao and Boracay, La Union, Camiguin, and Batanes, just a few of our crowning glories. It is not only the bucolic seasides that make people from all walks of life fall in love with the Philippines, but the steady hum of city life.
The Philippines brings a lot to the table in terms of exceptional food, hottest places to be and be seen in, and you’ll find this all in any of the business districts you visit, whether it’s Bonifacio Global City (the name alone intrigues a first-time visitor), Makati, or Quezon City, the largest city (at least by population).
Start your day off riding on bamboo bikes as you explore the city that stood for over 300 years. Read on to discover the one-of-a-kind experience that CVMN X can offer you.
Experience 19th-century lifestyles in Plaza San Luis
A cultural and commercial complex, Plaza San Luis encompasses five replica houses: Casa Manila, Casa Urdaneta, Casa Blanca, Los Hidalgos and El Hogar Filipino. A museum displaying late 19th and early 20th century furniture reflecting the Spanish influences of the time is present in Casa Manila. Barbara’s, a fine dining restaurant in the area, holds all the old-world charm of this complex.
See the Japanese Cannon, war artillery of old
Intramuros stood during a time when natural disasters and raids happened often; in the coming centuries, wars would erupt. Therefore, it had a lot of defensive features: moats, ramparts, and of course, cannons. Pedal over to the site where you can see the last of the Japanese cannons to destroy the walled city during World War II.
Attune to nature in the Puerta Real Gardens
In contrast to the abundant relics of war are splendid scenes of nature that simply astound. Right in front of the Intramuros complex are the Puerta Real Gardens, which are accessible via a drawbridge that allow sightseers to cross over a small body of water and into a short tunnel that goes through one of the walls. Once a royal garden, Puerta Real Gardens is now a popular outdoor events venue.
Enter the other world that is the Puerta Del Parian
The portion of the walls to be built first faced the area where the Chinese community of merchants lived, which would later on be known as Parian de Arroceros, the gate to which is called the Puerta Del Parian. Despite the fact that the Chinese community contributed greatly to the economy, they were largely ostracized by the Spanish and were confined to the Parian, with cannons pointed right outside should they ever get the urge to revolt. When the Puerta Real (royal gate) was destroyed during the British occupation, Puerta Del Parian became the new royal gate—the official entrance for the Spanish Governor General of the Philippines.
Visit the Aduana Building, the first of government offices
Erected in the early 1800s, this structure served as the old headquarters of the Customs office during that era. It was very close to the Pasig River, a site of trade and commerce. After an earthquake in 1863, it was rebuilt in 1876 and became the office of the Treasury and Casa Moneda, or Mint House, where the first Philippine coins were manufactured. It also served as the Intendencia General, or General Administration. After suffering damage in World War II, it was restored and became the Central Bank, the National Treasury and the Commission on Elections.
Behold the majesty of The Manila Cathedral
Unknown to many, this structure had been built and rebuilt due to earthquakes, fires and war, ending up with seven iterations of the cathedral, its last having been established in 1958. Located at the heart of Intramuros, it is the most famous churches in the country. Cardinal Jaime Sin, a leader in the 1986 People Power Revolution, lies in rest in its crypts, and former president Corazon Aquino’s funeral was held here. Its architecture is truly spectacular to behold: an impressive cupola, stained glass windows and mosaics; the facade is a replica of the cathedral’s seventh version; it houses replicas of statues of saints that stood before 1945, carved with Roman travertine stone. Elegant. What this cathedral truly embodies is the spirit of the Filipino: resilient, brave and free.
Take a leisurely stroll around Plaza de Roma
Across the Manila Cathedral is this small park which used to be called Plaza de Armas, used for bullfights. It had undergone several name changes that went hand in hand with the change in uses of the area. It became Plaza Mayor when it was turned into a garden, and Plaza McKinley when it was converted into a park. In 1961, it was named Plaza de Roma in a nod to the first Filipino cardinal Rufino J. Santos.
After bambiking all over Intramuros, you’re probably thinking you’re due for a meal, amirite? Manila’s got you covered. Nearby is the Philippines’ very own Chinatown, Binondo. Nothing completes an authentic experience like a locale’s cuisine, so before heading off to the National Museum, CVMN strongly suggests you try Binondo’s holes-in-the-wall, street food (!!) or any other dishes that sing to you.
Appreciate art and more at the National Museum
Established in 1901, the Museong Pambansa (National Museum) is home to the most famous works of Filipino artists. With four levels to explore, it hosts more than just paintings, but sculptures, sketches and artifacts too. One of the highlights of this stop is seeing the largest work of art displayed right as you enter: Juan Luna’s Spoliarium, a political statement inspired by the Philippine revolution in the 1880s to 1890s. Check out the Museum of Natural History nearby that opened in February to make the most of your visit!
Meet up at Bambike Ecotours HQ at Intramuros, Manila and start your day of exploration.
Stop 1: Plaza San Luis
Stop 2: Japanese Cannon
Stop 3: Puerta Real Gardens
Stop 4: Puerta Del Parian
Stop 5: Aduana Building
Stop 6: Manila Cathedral and Plaza de Roma
Have lunch at Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown and meet up afterwards to transfer to National Museum, which you can explore on your own.
Get dropped off at your hotel anywhere in Manila, Makati or Pasay.
Every wonder in the world is just waiting to be discovered. This is one of them. Book your Intramuros X trip here!
Header image and article cover by Bambike Ecotours